Showing posts with label Computers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Computers. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jumpstart Tip #24 - Embed Dates in File Names

Earlier Tips have described the benefits of using Folders and File Naming Conventions to make it easier to store and find things - essentially helping keep them more organized and making you more efficient by not having to burn through valuable time looking for things endlessly.

Another helpful Tip is that you can leverage the power of your computer to help you create an automatic Chronology Document for one or more individuals. Here's how it works.

First - note that your computer will instinctively organize a group of files in alphanumeric order. In other words, if you have a folder with 10, 20 or even 100 items, they will generally be displayed in ascending order with certain characters, then numbers, then letters being used to create teh ascending order. This is, of course, unless you have directed your computer to display them otherwise.

To 'force' the order into a Chronology, use a specialized form of an 8-character date field as the leading part of the file name, then follow with a more descriptive title using words.

Use the format YYYYMMDD where the Y is a four digit year (e.g. - 2012 or 1912), M is a two digit month (e.g. - 02 for February, 12 for December), and D is a two digit day (e.g. - 01 is the 1st, 11 is the eleventh). For everything to sort correctly, it's important that you use leading zeros for months and days that would normally be single digit numbers. So, today's date would be 20110119 and this past Christmas Day would read as 20101225.

To make things a bit easier to read, I often use a period (or dot) to separate the year, month, and day.

2010.12.25 - Christmas Day
2011.01.19 - Today's Tip Posting

You can already see how useful it can be just by looking at the two entries above. Start by focusing your efforts on a favorite ancestor or one with a special importance. Create a folder and copy (don't move, but instead copy) various files into this folder. They can be any file type you like - digital images, PDFs, Word documents, and others. Then inspect and rename the files one-by-one, inserting a date at the beginning. Your default Chronology will begin to appear.

What if I don't know a date for an image?
You won't always know an exact date for an image or may have to guess all together - that's ok for now, there is a way you can indicate that. Consider the files listed below.

1883.02.05 - Lynch Patrick Waterbury CT Birth Certificate
1900.06.01 - Lynch Patrick Waterbury CT US Federal Census 1900
1903.00.00 - ?Lynch Patrick Waterbury CT Photo Shop
1910.04.14 - Lynch Patrick Waterbury CT US Federal Census 1910
1916.02.24 - Lynch Patrick Waterbury CT Marriage Certificate
1920.01.01 - Lynch Patrick Waterbury CT US Federal Census 1920
1930.04.01 - Lynch Patrick Waterbury CT US Federal Census 1930
1941.08.00 - Lynch Patrick Waterbury CT Portrait
1958.03.24 - Lynch Patrick Waterbury CT Death Certificate
1958.03.25 - Lynch Patrick Waterbury CT Obituary

In the example shown for my grandfather, you can see that I have a photograph of an uknown specific date, but the back of the original indicates simply 'August 1941' and so I indicate the portion of the date that is known. If you later obtain a more precise date, you can always go back and rename the file.

You can also see that I have another photograph which I'm estimating was taken in about 1903. Since I don't know for certain, I use zeros for the month and day and also lead the text description with a question mark.

These is a technique that has worked well for me and I hope you find it to be of some use as well.

Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jumpstart Tip #6 - Back Up Your Computer Files

If you're wondering how this is a 'Jumpstart Tip' then you have clearly never lost a computer hard drive or had your computer stolen or damaged. It can take years to recreate all that work you may have done - even if you've just recently started.

Here are a few tips to help. Among the many folder on my computer hard drive, I have ONE main folder named 'Genealogy' and EVERYTHING dealing with my family history is in there. Sub-folders by surname, place name, data type (census, naturalization, etc.), presentations, correspondence, photos, and more are all organized within. I even have a folder called 'To File' with items I'm either still working on or have not yet decided where to file. I will frequently copy the entire contents of this GENEALOGY folder to a separate USB drive (or two). I keep one in my fireproof safe and will also often bring a copy and leave it at my brother's house 90 minutes away.

There are also online services if you prefer that will automatically back up your entire computer hard drive. I choose to copy my files by major folder because I can then just take the USB drive with me quite easily to family functions, libraries, archives or other places.

If you have not backed your files up recently, stop reading my tips and go back your files up now! This blog will be here when you are done.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Jumpstart Tip #2 - Matching Folders

Over many years, I've seen that family historians fall into at least one of two camps, but sometimes both. In the first camp are those who use 3-ring binders to organize all their family history notes and documents. In the second camp are those who use folders. Then there are people like me who use a combination of both, sometimes duplicating items intentionally.

Which ever method you choose is fine, as long as you do something to keep your ever growing collection of content organized. One benefit to using folders (meaning physical folders) is that you can replicate your folder system online as well. Use Surname, Placename, and other folders on your computer desktop, as well as in your email client, and also to keep your web browser 'Favorites' or 'Bookmarks' organized.

Don't forget too that you can nest folders inside one another just like in your physical file drawers. This can help you keep like groups together.

There are many benefits to this type of online foldering system and it's never too late to start. You can always create folders and gradually move files to where they belong. If you're not sure how to start, simply create a folder named GENEALOGY or FAMILY HISTORY and gradually move all your related files and documents into that main folder. Then you may wish to create Sub-Folders, perhaps one for your paternal line and another for your maternal line. Gradually move files into one of those two folders. Continue creating sub-folders and moving files until you can quickly locate and save your documents and files. You'll find this takes time to set up, but will save you a LOT of time in the long run.